JACKSON TWP — From a sophomore hoping to get on the court to a junior who opponents are struggling to contain — that’s the leap Zach Snyder has made for the Seneca Valley boys basketball team.
The 6-foot-5 forward is averaging 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He dropped 27 points in a crucial Section 3-AAAA victory over North Hills Tuesday night.
“He did a good job against us,” said North Hills coach Buzz Gabos. “The kid is 6-5, but with his arm-span, he plays even taller than that.”
Last season, Snyder scored a total of five points in varsity action.
“Zach continues to grow as a polished offensive threat both inside and out,” said SV coach Victor Giannotta. “The sky is the limit.”
Snyder’s improved performance did not just happen overnight.
“I put in a lot of hard work over the summer, adding 15 pounds, and I grew about three inches,” he said. “So I’m definitely stronger. I also learned a lot from last year’s seniors.”
Part of his offseason work includes playing for Basketball Stars of America, an AAU team based in Sewickley.
“We’ve traveled to play in Ohio, West Virginia, Florida,” he added. “We have competed in some of the top AAU tournaments in the country.”
Snyder wasted no time setting a positive tone for his junior season. He scored 28 points against Penn Hills at the Mars Tip-Off Tournament in early December.
Since then, he has scored at least 12 points in all but two games, reaching at least 20 points six other times. His career high of 30 points came against defending WPIAL champion New Castle Jan. 3.
Snyder has proved adept both on the baseline and in the paint. He is making a respectable 66 percent (64-of-97) of his free-throw attempts. In Tuesday’s win over North Hills, he drained all nine of his shots from the charity stripe.
“Zach has an innate ability when the ball is in his hands,” said Giannotta. “You do not score 30 points at New Castle without that ability.”
“I was expecting to have a good season,” Snyder said, “but I didn’t think I would be scoring this much.”
With another season of high school basketball on the horizon, Snyder is not satisfied with his play. He has hit just a pair of 3-pointers this season.
“I want to improve my outside shooting,” he said. “And my defense, that’s the number one thing. I’ve gotten better defensively off the ball, but still need to improve when I am on the ball.”
According to Giannotta, there is no reason Snyder can’t make those adjustments to his play.
“He understands that to reach his full potential, he needs to concentrate on rebounding as well as his defensive prowess,” he said. “He is the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave, which is a mark of his desire to improve.”
Of course, team success is also a priority for Snyder. The Raiders are currently 5-4 in section play and 9-6 overall.
“We’re taking it one goal at a time,” he said. “Our first one is to make the playoffs.”